Note: This comment policy is a work in progress.
As this is a low-traffic blog, I rarely have issues with comments which require my intervention as the blogger and comment moderator. However, occasionally I will post on issues that attract comments that become heated and sometimes cross my own personal boundaries when it comes to civil discourse, even in the informality of the internet. Since this is my blog and I control the content of this space, I do believe it's my responsibility to articulate those personal boundaries and be as consistent as possible in following through on them.
Comment Moderation: How It Works
This is a personal blog which -- like many writers who keep blogs on the internet -- I maintain on a strictly volunteer basis. I am lucky enough to have a job where I can often write blog posts and keep an eye on comment discussions while also performing my work-related tasks.
However, it is not always possible for me to respond to comments or issues on the blog immediately. Either I am not online and do not see them or I am occupied with other work and cannot take the necessary steps to respond right away. Often, I need some time to decide whether or how to respond to a comment or conversation which is emotionally fraught (whether for myself or other parties involved).
Comments on blog posts within the last six weeks are allowed through without moderation and an email is sent to me with the comment and a link to the post. I try to read them and (when desirable, appropriate and/or necessary) respond as soon as humanely possible. See above for reasons for possible delay.
Comments on posts older than six weeks are held for moderation and I receive an email asking me to review and accept or reject the comment. As long as I don't have a reason to reject your comment (see below), your comment will be approved as soon as I have a chance to review and accept it.
Deleting Comments: Why I Do It
The vast majority of the comments I delete are straight-up spam. However, there have been a handful of posts on my blog that, for one reason or another, have generated intense responses and heated discussion. And there are a few comments that I have strongly considered deleting or have, in fact, deleted. In the past, I have had no formal comment policy and made these calls on an individual basis; this comment policy is an attempt to codify, in writing, the types of comments I feel warrant removal.
I have deleted comments for the following reasons.
Sweeping generalizations and assumptions about people
This won't generally get your comments deleted, but will if done often and with vicious intent.
I've noticed that in heated comment threads, people often begin to make (and state) assumptions about the character and background of the person or people with whom they disagree. I've had people who disliked my blog posts, for example, claim I was straight, married, a young mother, and an ivy league student -- none of which are true.
The problem isn't that they disliked my point or responded angrily to it in comments -- the point is they worked backward from my argument to make unwarranted assumptions about my personal life that had no basis in actual knowledge.
If you dislike something I write, leave a comment and articulate your reasons for disliking what I say. Same goes for arguing with other readers in comments. Don't speculate about why I or they hold those views: if you want to know, ask.
Persistent ad hominum attacks
This follows on from the above. Personal attacks (for example: "you're an ugly bitch") made against me, a fellow commenter, or another blogger whom I link to or whose material I quote or share on my blog will get you deleted -- particularly if done persistently. Ad hominum attacks side-step the merits of a particular viewpoint and seek to discredit the person making the argument by maligning their character. In short, "X is a bad person because they are Y, therefore their opinion on Z doesn't count."
You're obviously entitled to believe that about me or another commenter -- I'm just not interested in having you say so on my blog. If you're interested in changing my mind, or the mind of a fellow commenter, argue the case -- don't resort of attacking the person qua person.
I recognize that language is a tricky thing, in that one person's dehumanizing slur is another person's re-appropriated term. However, it is generally clear from the content of a post when someone is using the word "fag" (for example) as a self-identifier or in the context of discussing homophobia as a cultural phenomenon OR using "fag" as a derogatory term for gay men. If you're using it as a slur, your comment gets deleted.
In general, I count "dehumanizing language" to be any language that reduces the identity of a person or group of people to their sexuality, skin color, ethnicity, etc., as a way of discounting them and their opinions or actions. "Breeder," used as an epithet for hetero parents, for example, in the context of a comment arguing that people who have children are irresponsible: not okay. Write a comment about how people who procreate are irresponsible, fucked up, whatever. Just don't reduce them to subhuman status through labels.
A handful of my posts, mostly on post related to abortion rights and reproductive justice, have been trolled by anti-choicers who have linked to external sites suggesting that doctors who perform abortions are baby killers who murder infants and profit from coercing women into accepting their services.
I'm just not interested. Propagation of untruths bore me as a scholar interested in critical, civil debate of complex moral issues. They also lead to actual murders of actual people. Therefore, you don't get to do that here. The internet is a big place and I'm not stopping you from expressing your point of view elsewhere.
Questions? Comments? email me at feministlibrarian [at] gmail [dot] com